Phragmites culm strength and thatch breakdown: Some difficulties. 1990. Landschaftsentwicklung und Umweltforschung. Technische Universität Berlin, 71, 5877.
Phragmites thatch is common in parts of rural England, and increasing reports of early breakdown are causing concern. Degradation is partly mechanical breakage by wind, etc., which is increased by reed weakness and brittleness. This may be inherent in the reed, or be caused by sunlight, warmth and dryness. Lignin appears to be important. Degradation is also partly microbial and invertebral, and obvious microbial attack is increased by moisture. Reed which is strong, waxy and with a good silica skeleton seems to offer the best protection from rapid decay.
On the reedbed, strength varies with clone, site and year. Weak reed from different sites and years is more uniform than is strong reed. Possible causes are discussed.